Tag Archives: ISIS

“Iran warns Central Asia may be Daesh’s next target”

TEHRAN – The defeat of Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria has made the terrorist group to change the geography of its activities and Central Asian countries must be watchful of this threat, Iranian Ambassador to Tajikistan Hojjatollah Faghani warned in a meeting with Tajik Parliament speaker Shukurjon Zuhurov in Dushanbe on Sunday.

Faghani also voiced Iran’s willingness to share experiences with Tajikistan in counter-terrorism efforts.

Ambassador Faghani and Shukurjon Zuhurov also discussed ways to expand mutual relationship.

The two sides also discussed parliamentary cooperation and reviewed the latest regional and international developments, IRNA reported.

Referring to a recent visit to Tajikistan by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as well as the holding of a joint economic commission meeting in Dushanbe, Faghani said relations between the two countries are rapidly gaining momentum.

The Iranian diplomat also highlighted the need to exchange parliamentary delegations and friendship groups.

The Tajik speaker, for his part, said Dushanbe attaches special importance to ties with Iran in view of the two countries’ common language and historical and cultural commonalities.

He assessed the future of bilateral relations as promising.

On November 9, Foreign Minister Zarif met with President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe to discuss ways to improve economic and trade relations and coordinate their counterterrorism efforts in the region. Zarif also participated in the inauguration ceremony of Iran’s new embassy building in the Tajik capital.

Iran News
02.01.2018

NEWSWEEK: WHY EXTREMIST GROUPS ARE GAINING STRENGTH IN CENTRAL ASIA

When security forces revealed the suspect in an attack on the St Petersburg metro that killed 14 on April 3 was likely a Kyrgyz national, attention turned to the Central Asia region, the source of several attacks on Russia in recent decades. After Friday’s truck attack in Stockholm that killed four, the region made headlines again. Swedish police said the suspect, who has confessed to the attack, was Rakhmat Akilov, from Uzbekistan.

Though Russian authorities believe the St. Petersburg suspect Akbarzhon Jalilov, 22, was a suicide bomber, they arrested eight people in connection with the attack on Monday, and chief of Russian intelligence Alexander Bortnikov said they were also from Central Asian republics.

Both attacks have drawn attention to region with a history of separatism, and in recent years, a source of Islamist extremism. Though neither attack has been claimed by any group so far, both have mirrors in those by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The group coordinated similar bombings at train stations in Brussels in March 2016 that killed 32, and a suicide attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul in June that killed 44 civilians, in which the suspects were also from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. ISIS’s propaganda wing has encouraged its “soldiers” to attack western targets by using vehicle rammings, and an ISIS-inspired attack in Nice in July 2016 killed 86.

There are concerns about the growth of religious extremism in Central Asia—since the rise of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in 2014 experts estimate up to 4,000 people from central Asia have gone to fight for the group in Iraq and Syria. Russia’s shared borders with much of Central Asia have made it nervous. In a speech to the U.N. general assembly in September 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concern over the growing threat of international terrorism in the region.

Much of Central Asia was formerly part of the Soviet Union, under which sources of identity such as religion and nationality were repressed. “In the 1990s when Communism collapsed, tradition withered away, and there wasn’t much prosperity. Conditions were ripe for a new ideology, and some people, especially young men looking to become heroes, were drawn to that,” says Anna Matleeva, visiting senior research fellow in the department for war studies at King’s College London.

A variety of extreme religious movements operate across Central Asia including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islam (Party of Islamic Liberation, HuT) the Jamaat of Central Asian Mujahidin and the Uyghur Islamic Party of Eastern Turkestan separatist group. Foreign organizations banned across the region include al Qaeda, Afghanistan’s Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Recruiters for ISIS are present in cities across the region. They target mostly poorer regions, suburbs, towns, areas with big bazaars, a crossroads perhaps, with a good communication network; places that allow a mixing of people anonymously,” Matleeva adds. There are several hotspots of extremism in the central Asian region, within the republics, as well as in regions with a strong separatist bent, such as Xinjiang in China.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, an authoritarian country, led by the dictator Islam Karimov until 2016, borders Afghanistan to the South, Turkmenistan to the west, and Russia to the north. The largest single group of people joining ISIS from Central Asia is from Uzbekistan, say Crisis Group experts.

A 39-year-old Uzbek man is in custody over an attack in Sweden which killed four in the capital, including a Belgian, a Briton, and two Swedes. Police said that he had “expressed sympathy for extremist organizations” including ISIS.

Reuters reports suggest that Uzbek recruits for ISIS could be in the thousands. The International Center for Conflict Resolution ( ICSR ) estimates that more than 500 Uzbek nationals have traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS in its self-styled caliphate. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan became part of ISIS in 2015, and is active in northern Afghanistan alongside the Taliban. The IMU wants to overthrow the Uzbek government and create Turkistan, or an Islamic caliphate which stretches from Xinjiang to the Caspian Sea.

Kyrgyzstan

The home of Jalilov, the alleged St Petersburg attacker, has experienced a “slow arc towards fundamentalism,” according to a June article in The Diplomat, a magazine specialising in Asian affairs. One of the bombers of the Boston marathon in 2013 was born in Kyrgyzstan, as was one of the attackers who hit Ataturk airport. Recruitment for extremist groups, particularly ISIS, is a concern for the tiny country. Estimates vary on the number of citizens that have gone to fight for ISIS, but several reports put the figure at around 500.

Of those who left to fight in Iraq and Syria, around 40 jihadists have returned and authorities are concerned about the influence they may have, and have cracked down on suspected extremist cells as a result.

Through 2015 and 2016 authorities carried out several raids in the capital Bishkek, and in Osh, on targets suspected or terror-related activities. They killed four during the anti-terror operation in July 2015, and detained several more, claiming the black flag of ISIS was flying above the house. In August 2016, police said they had broken up a suspected ISIS cell in Bishkek, and later that year the 10th Main Directorate, a government arm that usually deals with terror-related investigations, conducted weapons raids in Bishkek and Osh.

Other extremist movements besides ISIS have been active in the country, including a domestic arm of Iraqi Shia group Jaishul Mahdi that the government held responsible for bombings in 2010 and 2011. In 2011 the security services highlighted the emergence of an organization called the Islamic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (IMK) and analysts at the Crisis Group believe it has grown and provides assistance to people aiming to fight in Syria with ISIS.

Xinjiang, China

China is convinced that Xinjiang, an autonomous territory located in the far west of the country, and home to Uighur separatists and a Muslim-majority population, poses a threat to the country’s stability to such an extent that entering Urumqi, the capital, feels like entering a warzone. Armored vehicles and riot police line the streets, and there are constant alerts of possible uprisings. The government blamed the minority Uighurs for a knife attack in Xinjiang that left eight dead in February. Ethnic tensions between the Uighurs and China’s majority Han population have been exacerbated by Beijing’s crackdown on rights and civil liberties in the region.

In late February Chinese authorities were on high alert after an ISIS video released by the Al-Furat division of ISIS, their propaganda arm, suggested an attack in the region was imminent.

Since then Beijing directed that all cars in Xinjiang must have GPS, claiming that the form of monitoring was to protect against attacks. The army also marched through Urumqi, in a show of anti-extremist strength.

Tajikistan

Bordering China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan is a majority Muslim country but follows a secular political institution. In November 2016, the U.S. told visitors to be wary of terror attacks, and to avoid public gatherings as growing religious unrest continued in Tajikistan, with its porous border with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Though the government has claimed that around 1,000 Tajiks have gone to fight for ISIS, analysts are skeptical, as the government has linked unrest to Islamic extremism when quashing dissent. Previously it was only Central Asian country with Islam represented politically, but President Emomoli Rahmon succeeded after 2015 in concentrating power in his hands after closing the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan. In July that year, Gulmorod Khalimov, the head of Tajikistan’s special forces became a high-profile defection to ISIS—he appeared in a propaganda video for the group, criticizing the Tajik government’s policy toward Islam.

Newsweek

04.12.2017

ODR: “Meet Tajikistan’s embattled Islamists”

Tajikistan is trying to persecute what was once Central Asia’s only legal Islamist party out of existence. But is this really about countering terrorism, or just cracking down on dissent in any form?

A campaign poster from the Islamic Renaissance Party for Tajikistan’s 2015 parliamentary elections. Ten of the party leaders depicted here are currently behind bars.

On a rainy day in March, I met Ilhomjon Yaqubov in a town I will not name. In a nondescript socialist-era apartment block, we drank tea from ceramic bowls, and ate dried fruits.

Two years ago, Ilhomjon was detained by the Tajik authorities, beaten, and made to renounce his membership of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) on camera. Yaqubov is a prominent member of the party and use to lead its branch in Sughd, Tajikistan’s northernmost province. For more than six hours, his captors forced him to literally swallow articles he had written against Tajikistan’s authoritarian regime.

Since 2015, party members have begun to flee to Europe after IPRT, the sole legally operating Islamist party in Central Asia, was banned as an “extremist organisation” by the Tajik authorities. In September that year, the authorities received the perfect pretext: Tajikistan’s former deputy defence minister Abdulhalim Nazarzoda broke ranks and staged an attack on a police station in the Vahdat region. Blame fell on the IRPT, and the authorities arrested 13 high-ranking party functionaries and detained over 150 ordinary members. Dushanbe accused the IRPT of plotting a terrorist coup, and of links to so-called Islamic State.

After torture, Ilhomjon Yaqubov is made to renounce his membership of the IRPT in this video circulated by Tajikistan’s authorities. Image still via YouTube / Human Rights Watch. Some rights reserved.The Nazarzoda affair was the tip of the iceberg. Tajikistan is facing one of the worst crackdowns on dissent since independence. Emomali Rahmon has ruled the place since 1994, and thanks to constitutional amendments last year, he can run for as many presidential terms as he pleases.

Fears over terrorism both globally and in the region has put Central Asia’s Islamist parties in the security spotlight. But Islamism is a broad school of thought, and its causal links to violent extremism are far from established.

Under cover of counter-terrorism, the Tajik authorities have cracked down on the country’s most potent opposition force — and they’ve gotten away with it.

Blessed are the peacebuilders

You can’t understand the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan without the country’s brutal civil war, perhaps the most forgotten post-Soviet conflict. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the signing of Tajikistan’s peace accords in 1997. The agreement ended a conflict which led to as many as 157,000 deaths and 1.5m people being displaced in their own country alone.

The IRPT played a key role in the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), a motley alliance of democrats and Islamists from the central and eastern regions of the country. They faced off against the Popular Front, an alliance of former Communist apparatchiks who tacitly enjoyed Russian and Uzbek support.

The peace accords guaranteed the IRPT a presence in Tajikistan’s public life, providing an outlet for the more conservative-minded, at first mostly rural electorate. It became the country’s go-to opposition force. But as Rahmon started to renege on his commitments to the peace accords, the IRPT came into the authorities’ crosshairs. In September 2010, a group of militants unaffiliated with the IRPT attacked government soldiers in the Kamarob Gorge. Tajikistan’s authorities cracked down hard, introducing a whole raft of anti-religious laws.

Emomali Rahmon and Abdullo Nuri of the UTO and IRPT sign the peace accords which ended Tajikistan’s bloody civil war, December 1996. Photo (c): Alexander Makarov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.

In early 2012, talk of a certain Protocol 32-20 arose online — allegedly an order to Tajikistan’s security services to put pressure on IRPT members to leave the party, offering financial incentives if necessary. Tajik state media soon launched a hate campaign against the party. “State newspapers even declared that 60% of all Tajik ISIS fighters had once been members of the IRPT,” sighs Yaqubov.

Despite rising harassment, in March 2015, the IRPT was the largest opposition party in parliament, counting over 40,000 members. The party received 8.2% of the vote in the rigged 2010 elections (Rahmon’s rubber-stamp People’s Democratic Party won 71%), and just 1.6% in the even more outrageously rigged 2015 elections, losing its only two seats in Tajikistan’s parliament. IRPT politicians insisted to me that their share of the vote in 2015 was significantly higher.

It’s difficult to emphasise quite how widely this hunt for dissent has spread. Even the legal profession is not immune: in October 2016, two lawyers representing IRPT members in court were sentenced to 23 and 21 years’ imprisonment respectively (one of them now faces an extended sentence). One of the charges is “supporting extremist activity.”

You say you want a renaissance

Islamism is an elastic term, with wide-ranging applications and understandings. The IRPT’s version has a post-Soviet pedigree, tracing its lineage to the Revival of Islamic Youth of Tajikistan, founded in 1972 as an underground organisation in the Tajik SSR.

Two key Islamic scholars at the time of the Soviet collapse were Muhamadsharif Himatzoda and Abdullo Nuri. Like many people of faith in Soviet Central Asia, they chose to pursue law or technical sciences, using their free time to attend clandestine Islamic study circles under the tutelage of Hanafi Islamic scholar, Muhammadjon Hindustoni. For Hindustoni, the Soviet repression of religion was a test to be solved with fortitude and patience, rather than political violence.

Indeed, Nuri and his comrades took inspiration from the the Jadid movementduring the waning years of Tsarist rule, and saw the Islamic reformist movement as an indigenous liberalising tradition rudely interrupted by the Soviet experiment. In 1986, he was imprisoned for “spreading religious propaganda”, and later led the IRPT through the Tajik civil war. Muhiddin Kabiri succeeded Nuri as leader in 2000, and his leadership marked a more liberal shift of IRPT policy, which was met with strong scepticism by some more conservative party members. The death of the revered Abdullo Nuri also emboldened president Rahmon, who now faced a younger competitor.

The party’s level of organisation, rather than its Islamist teachings, made it a threat to Emomali Rahmon’s regime

Reading through a Russian translation of the party’s most recent (2015) manifesto, I found many policy proposals fairly social democratic in origin. Its populist language denounces elite-level corruption and decries the “moral decay” it brings. The document describes Islam as the catalyst for the party’s policies, but also stresses its commitment to parliamentary democracy and freedom of expression. Even the IRPT’s first manifesto in 1991 speaks more strongly of anti-colonial Tajik nationalism than of strident Islamism. When interviewed for this article, Tajikistan scholars such as Edward Lemon and Human Rights Watch’s Steve Swerdlow do not doubt the party’s commitment to democratic and pluralist values, seeing the crackdown as expressly political in nature.

Kabiri’s liberal shift brought a move toward gender equality, too. In 2013, the IRPT put its support behind a female presidential candidate, lawyer Oynihol Bobonazarova, in conjunction with the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (under the Alliance of Reformist Forces of Tajikistan).

Central square in Khujand, Tajikistan, 2008. Photo CC BY-NC 2.0: Steve James / Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Indeed, increased political repression led to an unexpectedly greater representation of women in the IRPT. As one exiled Tajik journalist told me on condition of anonymity, an estimated 45-50% of all party members are women. It’s partly a tactical approach, which allows some families to continue their party links without fathers and husbands putting their careers in jeopardy.

Abdullo Nuri advocated making Tajikistan an Islamic state, albeit within the framework of the country’s secular constitution and “in accordance with popular wishes.” As one party member recalled to me, in a telling but perhaps apocryphal quote that hints at the country’s fragile peace, “Ustod Nuri famously said that he didn’t want to create an Islamic state on a cemetery.” Exiled party leader Muhiddin Kabiri expanded on Nuri’s vision in an interview earlier this year. “After many years of study,” began the IRPT leader, “I concluded that the idea of an Islamic State is a modern phenomenon — many parties across the Islamic world have declared their support for one, but never explained exactly what that meant. It’s not an idea with solid religious justification — religion should play an important role in society, but government should be technocratic and non-ideological. Islam doesn’t demand state-building on its own behalf, but to build a society where people are fulfilled and free.”

“After all,” he continued “how can there be an Islamic state without an Islamic society?”

In the service of the motherland

Millions of Muslims find themselves living under secular nationalist dictatorships, and Central Asia is no exception. The war on terror was a boon for the region’s autocracies. By 2005, US embassy cables from Dushanbe already 2005 described Kabiri as “walking a tightrope” — Rahmon wanted to marginalise him, and the more traditionalist Islamist wing in his party distrusted him.

Kabiri, who fled Tajikistan in March 2015 in anticipation of the crackdown, described the president’s Machiavellian reasoning. The IRPT, he told me, became Rahmon’s “pro-democracy business card” in meetings with western officials — a token gesture to political pluralism. In response, the party began to consider rebranding itself as early as 2004. Leaders even proposed removing “Islamic” from its title, though Rahmon himself allegedly advised Nuri against doing so. A more official move to “de-Islamise” the party in late September 2015 was also stymied by Tajikistan’s authorities.

A legal Islamist party of any shade was of great political use to Rahmon. As his regime began violating the 1997 accords with impunity, Tajikistan’s authorities began a smear campaign against the IRPT. Rahmon was able to hold up the spectre of the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan (not to mention Tajikistan’s own brutal civil war) in order to smear the opposition. The fact that elements of the IRPT leadership had sought safety in Afghanistan during the civil war (albeit with ethnic Tajik anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud) hardly helped the perception.

“Thank you for our country’s independence!” reads this billboard depicting president Emomali Rahmon in Nurek, Tajikistan. Photo CC BY 2.0: Prince Roy / Flickr. Some rights reserved.

“We were being presented as a ‘radical’ party — so I asked people in the government what we could do to comply with their wishes, to ‘deradicalise.’ But they just told me it would be worse for me if we changed the party’s name” – recalls Kabiri.

Members stuck by their party. As exiled IRPT members in the EU told me, the party simply represented an alternative. Tajik citizen Massud fled to Russia in 2015 after after heavy fines and harassment by the police on various pretexts. He’s an elderly, intellectual type, and joined the IRPT in 1999, and is eager to tell me why. “I knew something wasn’t right in the Soviet period, when students had to be sent into the fields to collect cotton rather than study, and were told to shut up when they complained.”

 “The IRPT was the only party which really talked seriously about corruption and social inequality. The attraction wasn’t strictly because it was Muslim”

While he was never the most pious Muslim, says Massud, the IRPT told the truth about the corruption ravaging the country. “When I noticed that all the other deputies appeared to hate them, I was intrigued. So I joined — simple as that.”

Rostam, a small business owner, is another IRPT party member who entered the EU via Ukraine in 2015. He’s a man of fewer words, punctuated by sighs, but says much the same: “The IRPT was the only party which really talked seriously about corruption and social inequality,” he tells me. “For me, the attraction wasn’t strictly because it was Muslim.”

Ilhomjon Yaqubov makes the same argument. Simply put: the party’s level of organisation, rather than its Islamist teachings, made it a threat to Emomali Rahmon’s regime.

Crackdowns driving radicalisation?

Emomali Rahmon’s Tajikistan presents its citizens with a loaded choice; better the devil you know than the Wahhabi fundamentalists you don’t. As bloodshed continues in the Middle East, that binary has left little room for the IRPT.

These days, Dushanbe seems terrified of any overt signs of religiosity. In July, the government established a commission to combat “improper clothing” (the country’s relentless anti-hijab campaign has continued for two years.) But religious men aren’t off the hook — last January, Tajik police boasted that they had shaved 13,000 beards across the country “to combat radicalism.”

Kabiri despairs of these moves, arguing that their motivation cannot solely be anti-extremist. “The authorities in Tajikistan are not interested in promoting any ‘good’ form of Islam. It’s not even about Islam per se: they’re not interested in any strong opposition or autonomous social movement, whether secular or religious!” he exclaims.

Party spokesman Mahmudjon Faizrahmonov and Muhammadjon Kabirov, head of the IRPT’s mass media department and cousin of Muhiddin Kabiri, are convinced that the ban of their party has led to an increase in radicalisation among young Tajik Muslims. “When the party was active, the youth had a chance to use their religious insight for social and political activities. But now, young people don’t even believe in elections anymore,” Faizrahmonov tells me. “Just look at the numbers: before 2015, there were around 250 Tajik ISIS fighters. Now, it’s over 1,000.”

It’s understandable why the Tajik authorities are worried. But employing ham-fisted methods at home can hardly help social stability

Indeed, Faizrahmonov fears it is political nihilism, not religious piety, that will breed violence in Tajikistan. An increasing body of research on countering violent extremism, whether from the US military or European scholars of Islam such as Olivier Roy, bears this out — many ISIS recruits from overseas are hardly pious in their former lives, having superficial religious knowledge.

However, the IRPT’s view of radicalisation may be missing something. While the Islamic State’s threat to Central Asia itself has been massively overstated in English-language media, Tajiks are by and large not actually radicalised in Tajikistan. Instead, most people from Tajikistan who join terrorist organisations were radicalised while working as labour migrants in Russia, where they live in precarious and often denigrating conditions.

It’s understandable why the Tajik authorities are worried. That said, employing ham-fisted methods at home can hardly help social stability — especially when some Tajik migrants began to return home from Russia after the crash of 2008.

One grund for concern is the fact that Tajik militants have found their way to Iraq and Syria, where they’ve risen quickly up IS’ ranks. Among their number was Gulmorod Halimov, a former Tajik security forces chief who had even received counter-terrorism training in the USA. Once the terrorist organisation’s commander in Mosul, Halimov then came to serve as IS “Minister of War”. Halimov’s death has been reported on several occasions, but his influence on IS military strategy is undoubtable. A report in February found that last year that Tajiks were disproportionately represented on the among IS’ suicide bombers — likely Halimov’s doing.

Gulmorod Halimov, IS “Minister of War” (right), was once a high-ranking official in Tajikistan’s security forces who received counter-terrorism training in the USA. Image still: CATV News / YouTube. Some rights reserved.

Reliable figures on Tajiks in IS ranks are scarce, though the country’s Interior Ministry told RFE/RL that 1,141 Tajik nationals had gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. As the tide has turned against ISIS in Iraq, around a hundred of these Tajik militants have returned home. Half of them have been pardoned, though they still face suspicion. IRPT members have not failed to notice the bitter irony, given that they must still conduct party activities from abroad, or clandestinely at home.

Kabirov shares another bitter irony: during the final years of the IRPT’s legal existence in Tajikistan, state media lowered its bar to surprising depths in its search for anti-IRPT guest speakers. They allege that these broadcasts even included hardline Salafis who denounced the party for participating in a formally democratic system.

There’s a logic here, too: while they may be intolerant and fundamentally opposed to democracy, Salafists are not necessarily violent extremists — many are quietists, and see the political oppression of Muslims as divine punishment for their sins. In this worldview, austere piety unsullied by politicking is the path to salvation. From the perspective of a post-Soviet autocrat, one might even see them as useful bedfellows.

In 2014, Tajikistan’s chief mufti issued a fatwa against criticising president Emomali Rahmon

It’s maybe unsurprising that, as Central Asia scholar Tim Epkenhans wrote, Tajikistan’s state-sanctioned Islam “embraces an idea of Islam that almost resembles a Salafi interpretation, excluding Muslims who follow a broader Islamic tradition or emphasise the political relevance of Islamic thought.”

In 2014, Tajikistan’s chief mufti Saidmukarram Abdulkodirzoda even issued a fatwa against criticising president Emomali Rahmon and his regime. The government’s Islamic Centre has imposed its own examinations on all imams, which highlight regime loyalty. Tellingly, it issued a Friday khutba (sermon) the day before the 2015 elections arguing that “Islam is no political party, and if Islam needed a party, the Prophet Muhammad would have established one.” It was a veiled, but pointed reference to the IRPT.

Making a run for it

The IRPT members interviewed for this article live in a number of countries across the European Union. Kabiri estimates that there are round 500-600 IRPT members living in Europe, around 80 to 100 of which have received political asylum.

Poland is the most accessible EU state, a point of access for Tajik and Chechen refugees crossing from Belarus. But now, asylum seekers are encountering more problems entering the country and having their claims heard.

Slowly but surely, the road to Europe is closing. Many post-Soviet states are not safe for Central Asian political exiles. According to IRPT members, Rahmon has ordered his team to try and sign an separate extradition treaty with Ukraine as soon as possible — perhaps spurred on by Kyiv’s refusal to extradite former prime minister Abdumalik Abdullajanov in 2013.

On 22 September 2016, over 200 people protested outside the home of Ilhomjon Yaqubov’s mother in Khujand, Tajikistan, chanting “Ilhomjon is a traitor”. The act was possibly in retaliation for Yaqubov’s presence at the OSCE’s HDIM meeting in Warsaw. Photo courtesy of Ilhomjon Yaqubov.

With its large number of Tajik migrant labourers, Russia is the most obvious destination. But it’s more dangerous for other Tajik opposition groups than for the IRPT, says Faizrahmonov. Many are well aware of the close cooperation of the Russian and Tajik security services — even dissidents holding Russian passports such as Maksud Ibragimov have been spirited back home by the FSB. Understandably, many would rather not take the risk.

Many Central Asian political exiles have long called Turkey home, though an increasingly unsafe one. In 2015, Umarali Kuvvatov, leader of Group 24 (another Tajik opposition group), was shot dead in downtown Istanbul. Indeed, amid Ankara’s own human rights crackdown, the situation for IRPT members has rapidly deteriorated.

In October last year, the Istanbul offices of Payom, an IRPT-affiliated publication, were closed down by the Turkish authorities at the request of Dushanbe. The party’s council members conclude that an informal was reached on the sidelines of the Turkish deputy prime minister’s visit to Dushanbe in February.

Wherever they run, Tajikistan’s authorities have another way of getting at critics — namely, their families. After senior opposition activists including Muhiddin Kabiri spoke at a conference in Dortmund last month, a new round of intimidation began against the participants’ relatives back home.

This has become standard practice for Tajikistan’s authorities — and was last deployed on this scale following speeches by Tajik dissidents at the OSCE’s HDIM conference in Warsaw last September. This year’s conference ended last week — though the Tajik government never sent a delegation. Safar Kabirov, father of Muhammadjon, was detained and tortured by Tajik authorities on 6 September, threatened with imprisonment if his son attends. Dushanbe has even threatened to expel the OSCE mission in Tajikistan (the largest in Central Asia) should IRPT members speak up.

But Tajik dissidents have done more than speak up — in an open letter with 23 NGOs including Human Rights Watch, they’ve requested that Rustam Inoyatov and Saymumin Yatimov, heads of the security services of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, be added to the USA’s Global Magnitsky List.

The number of imprisoned IRPT members across Tajikistan is unknown. Last June, the 13 high-ranking party officials arrested in September 2015 received prison sentences ranging from two to 28 years. Four months later Zarafo Rahmoni, the only woman among the 13, received a presidential pardon. IRPT deputy chairman Mahmadali Hayit remains behind bars amid rumours of rapidly deteriorating health. Faizrahmonov says that as remaining IRPT members in the country fear pervasive surveillance, it’s difficult to get reliable information on his condition and that of other political prisoners.

The IRPT’s story reminds us that, far from being a product of isolation, Tajikistan’s authoritarianism is deeply globalised. As John Heathershaw and Alexander Cooley have written, Central Asian rulers launder their money in western offshores, fight their legal battles in western courts, and use Interpol arrest warrants to pursue critics (Muhiddin Kabiri remains on an Interpol wanted list to this day). It should also remind us, in the current political climate, to be more discerning in how we understand Islamism and those who, however elastically, adhere to that set of beliefs.

Those like Shamsuddin Saidov, an exiled member of IRPT’s supreme council. For a short while, Saidov was the youngest political prisoner in the Soviet Union, and was freed shortly before its collapse. We drink tea, from cups and saucers, with Janatulloh Komilov, a party organiser in Germany. Saidov knows all one would want to know (at least, Komilov’s polite silence seems to suggest so).

He tells me about the days of Nuri, the exile in Afghanistan, and what Europe really doesn’t get (and ought) about the Islamic world and democracy. About the west and the rest.

To sum it all up, he adds, with palms aloft: “We can rule. We could even implement the secular constitution — a hundred times better than Emomali Rahmon.”

Opendemocracy

MAXIM EDWARDS

28 September 2017

Moderndiplomacy: “A reverse side of struggle against ISIS in Central Asia”

How did members of opposition emerge as jihadist?

Often, the authorities of the Central Asian states fight against supporters of the so-called “Islamic states” by using the actions of their political opponents to prosecute their family members. In particular, under the slogan of combating Islamic extremism Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon has been repressing the leaders of Islamic Revolutionary Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and their family more than two years.

It should be noted that the IRPT was the largest opposition party in the country and the only Islamic political party that officially registered in Central Asia. Two years ago, on September 29, 2015, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan declared the IRPT as a terrorist organization that threatened the security and stability of the state. Now the activities of the IRPT are prohibited, its leader Said Abdullo Nuri signed a peace agreement with the President Emomali Rahmon at the end of the civil war in Tajikistan in June 1997.

The court decision stated that the party was directly associated with the attempt of mutiny, undertaken in September 2015 by the Deputy Defense Minister, General Abdukhalim Nazarzoda. The rebellion was suppressed, and in mid-September the authorities arrested virtually the whole IRPT leadership. Only the leader of the party, Kabiri Muhiddin, escaped arrest because a few months before these events he had left for Europe.

On June 2, 2016, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan sentenced the Deputy Leaders of the IRPT Umarali Hisainov and Mahmadali Haitov to life imprisonment, 11 party activists up to 28 years of imprisonment. The court found them guilty of terrorism, religious extremism, a coup d’état attempt, the overthrow of the constitutional form of the government and murder. According to Amnesty International, the trial did not meet the requirements of fair trial and is clearly of a political nature. The UN condemned the verdicts to the leaders of the IRPT.

Today, the whole arsenal of the state’s punitive machine is directed not only against activists of the party, but also against members of their family. Authorities took the passports from many wives and children of convicted IRPT members, so that they could not leave the country. Many relatives lost their employment. The fiscal authorities of the country have closed or confiscated medium and small businesses, which belonged to members of the IRPT. The property of the party was also confiscated. More than 10 relatives of the party leader Mukhiddin Kabiri were detained, including his 95-year-old father Tillo Kabirov, who died in October 2016. After this, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed concern over the repressive policies of the Tajik government against the relatives of the leader of the IRPT.

State television and pro-governmental media call convicts “enemies of the Tajik people.” Due to the call of officers of the government, from time to time Tajik youth burn portraits of opposition leaders, throw stones at their homes, throw eggs at the relatives of convicted IRPT members. All this is reminiscent of the times of Stalin’s repression which were subjected not only to “enemies of the people” but also members of their families. Because of fear of physical violence and political repression, more than 1,500 IRPT activists and their family members left the country. On June 12, 2017, the IRPT political council made a statement from Germany expressing its outrage at the persecution of relatives of its activists in Tajikistan and urged the world community to intervene. But this is hardly affecting the government.

Thus, the President Emomali Rahmon skillfully used the threat of Islamic radicalism and the struggle with ISIS jihadists to eliminate the political opposition represented by the IRPT. In the absence of real political competition, the Head of the state strengthened his authoritarian power, appointed his son the mayor of the capital, daughter – the head of the presidential administration. The president decided to create the most comfortable conditions for the transfer of power by inheritance using a monarchical pattern of repressive methods not only against opponents but also their closest relatives.

No One Writes to the Colonel Halimov

Four brothers of the past commander of the Special Police Force of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan, Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, who joined ISIS militants in April 2015 due to religious belief, were killed. It is known that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi appointed him to the post of “Minister of Military Affairs” of the Islamic state. Because of his rich background he became the iconic agitational figure of the Caliphate, who several times urged Tajik migrants in Russia to join the jihad. He stated that they had become “slaves of the disbelievers “, instead of being “slaves of Allah”, after which he called his compatriots to go to Syria for war. At one time, the US State Department announced a $ 3 million reward for the information on the whereabouts of Halimov. On April 15, 2017 the British magazine “The Times” reported that the Tajik colonel was liquidated in consequence of the air strike in the west of Mosul, but so far there is no concrete confirmation of this.

On July 5, 2017 full blood brothers of the disgraced colonel Gulmorod, Sultonmurod Halimov and Fozil Halimov, and his nephew Afzal Abdurashidov and their close relative Naim Rahmonov were murdered by covert means of interior ministry member. They were buried by the relatives in Darai Foni village without washing and “Janoza” ceremony. Under Islamic canons the man who fought on Allah track and fell down on the battlefield is called “Shakhid”. So, shakhid will not be washed (do the ghusl) and buried in their clothes. Also three his brothers, Ali, Komil and Nazir, were arrested.

According to law enforcement authorities of Tajikistan, relatives of Halimov Gulmorod intended to cross the Tajik-Afghan border in the vicinity of Chubek village and join ISIS.  Allegedly on the Afghan side of the Pyanj River, the brothers and relatives of Colonel Halimov were awaited by Islamic state militants. But the probability of this version raises deep suspicions, as the authorities of the country have started using punitive technologies against the innocent relatives of Colonel Halimov.

For example, in June 2017, the Dushanbe City Court sentenced the son of a runaway colonel, Gulmurod Behrouz who had just graduated from school, to 10 years in prison. According to the investigation, the young man maintained contact with his father and wanted to flee to him who was in Syria. But at the trial which was held in closed mode, no evidence was given of his guilt. He himself declared his innocence. According to him, after his father’s escape, he had never contacted him, and he found out about his father’s fate from social media platforms. According to the statement of the first wife of the runaway colonel Nazokat Murodova, due to financial difficulties she could not hire a lawyer for her son. Her son did a small business to help his family financially, and now they are left without a breadwinner and live in the grip of poverty. She does not intend to appeal the verdict to a higher court, since she does not believe in the justice of the judges. She added that the authorities fulfilled the political order and made her son a victim in the fight against Islamic radicalism, although by the law her son should not be responsible for the actions of his father.

On July 4, 2017, the authorities of Tajikistan arrested another nephew of the “ISIS military minister”, F. Halimov who was extradited from Russia to Dushanbe. He is the son of one of the six brothers of the runaway colonel. He is accused of recruiting Tajik youth for jihad in Syria on the side of the Islamic state.

The analysis shows that the personal mistake of Colonel Gulmurod Halimov to join ISIS made a social outcast not only of his blood brothers and family members, but also of all fellow villagers in Darai Fony village in the south of Tajikistan, where he was born and raised. Today, all the power of the repressive apparatus of the state is directed against the inhabitants of this village. One of the residents of this village, on condition of anonymity, informed us that Stalin’s repression had returned to them, when the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shot down “enemies of the people” without trial and investigation, and expelled members of their families to Siberia for hard labor.

ISIS is a convenient lever for the authorities of Central Asia in the fight against political opposition

Unfortunately, lawyers, local human rights organizations, the Human Rights Association in Central Asia and the regional offices of Human Rights Watch are forced to turn a blind eye to the obvious facts of human rights violations in lawsuits related to Islamic radicalism. Opposing the authorities may turn into accusations against them as ISIS extremists. Recently it happened, for example, the well-known Tajik lawyer Buzurgmekhr Yorov who defended the leaders of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, and himself was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment on October 6, 2016. He was found guilty of “fraud”, “a mass appeal for overthrowing the constitutional order”, “incitement of national or religious hatred.” The court also condemned for 21 years the lawyer Nuriddin Makhamov, who defended his colleague Buzurgmkhar Yorov. Thus, the authorities wanted to teach a lesson for all lawyers and human rights defenders who wanted to protect “Islamic radicals” in the future.

Recently, authoritarian rulers of the Central Asian states have successfully mastered a new trend, blaming all of their political opponents for links with the jihadists of the Islamic state. It turned out that this is a very convenient screen to justify its repressive actions. In the case of criticism by Western European countries, the United States and international organizations about human rights violations, democratic norms and censorship of freedom of speech, authoritarian leaders of Central Asia unanimously affirm that they are fighting ideological supporters of ISIS. Indeed, if the entire civilized world fights against Islamic extremism and international terrorism, the Western powers will not defend the one who is accused of having links with Islamists. Thus, the rulers of the five Central Asian republics have learned to benefit from the world struggle against religious extremism, through which they strengthen their power and pursue oppression against their political opposition.

In January 2017 one of the critics of the government of Kyrgyzstan, former parliamentary deputy Maksat Kunakunov was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the confiscation of his personal property “for the attempted coup and the financing of the local cell of the international terrorist group ISIS”. Closer to the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan which will be held in October 2017, the conveyor of political repression against opposition leaders has intensified. So, on April 17, 2017 Pervomaisky district court of Bishkek sentenced strong opponents of the president, opposition politicians Bektur Asanov, Kubanychbek Kadyrov, Ernest Karybekov and Dastan Sarygulov to 20 years imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and to seize power.” The accused at the trial which was held in closed mode categorically rejected the accusations and said that the authorities pursued them for their opposition activities. Also, political repression touched prominent leader of the opposition Ata Meken party Tekebayev Omurbek and Sadyr Japarov, who were arrested on the eve of the presidential election. Today, the trial of them continues. But it is already clear that he cannot take part in the upcoming elections. Thus, President Almazbek Atambayev used the threat of Islamic radicalism for the repression of the political opposition and for the transfer of power to his successor the current Prime Minister, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

With the emergence of the so-called “Islamic state” in the Middle East and the activation of the Taliban militants, ISIS in Afghanistan, the political regimes of Central Asia have found a convenient political tool to influence public sentiments and to distract society from economic problems. As you can see by the analysis, the heads of the region through the threat of ISIS have been and are clearing the political field of opponents, pursue their opponents and strengthen their authoritarian regime. By the decision of improvised courts, the oppositionists easily turn political figures into criminals by accusing them of being ISIS supporters. The authorities are at work to further develop such methods that develop a negative attitude towards the opposition party in their society. The presidents of the five former republics of the Soviet empire whose population is Sunni Muslims, dream of having an opposition only characterized under the ISIS grouping, so that overseas society does not raise questions about their methods of fighting in order to continue “maintaining stability.”

But the authorities must understand that the constant accusation of the opposition in connection with Islamic radicals is beneficial, first of all, to local Wahhabis and Salafis who bear the idea of building a Caliphate in Central Asia. Supporters of Al Qaeda and ISIS will try to join their ranks at the expense of those who suffered from the repression of the authorities and the injustice of corrupt courts. The repression of the opposition gives additional radical arguments to the recruitment of new jihadists into the hands of radical Islamic groups. In order to successfully resist the ideology of radical Islamism, the authorities need to improve the social and economic conditions of the population, carry out radical reforms of the judicial branch of government and law enforcement agencies, and eradicate corruption in state structures.

moderndiplomacy

RFERL: Tajikistan’s Deadly Export

State suppression of unofficial Islam, the humiliation of having to work as migrant laborers abroad, and a former special-forces commander flipping to the Islamic State group: these are the main factors behind why Tajikistan finds itself the world’s leading exporter of suicide bombers to Islamic State (IS) battlefields.

Experts singled out these factors when assessing how the impoverished Central Asian state came out on top in a recent report listing the origins of suicide bombers sent to Iraq and Syria, on whose territory IS’s diminishing so-called caliphate stands.

The report by The Hague-based International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) claimed that 27 Tajiks had carried out suicide operations in Iraq and Syria from December 2015 to November 2016, the highest among all foreign individuals whose country of origin had been identified.

The report — War by Suicide: A Statistical Analysis of the Islamic State’s Martyrdom Industry — has put the spotlight on Tajikistan’s struggle against extremism and why Tajiks would be so significantly represented among IS suicide bombers.

As if to underscore the findings, the IS’s Aamaq news agency has claimed that two Tajiks were among those responsible for the suicide bombing and gun attack on a military hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on March 8 that killed at least 49 people. The claim from the extremist group, which has made inroads in Afghanistan since 2015, has not been verified by either Tajik or Afghan authorities.

 ‘Disproportionality’ Of Tajiks

Tajik’s Interior Ministry said in January that around 1,100 of its citizens were fighting in Syria and Iraq. At least 300 of them have reportedly been killed there, according to Dushanbe, while more than 60 have returned home voluntarily and been pardoned by the authorities under a blanket amnesty.

Charlie Winter, the author of the ICCT report, says Tajiks are “disproportionally represented” on the list of suicide bombers — the number of Tajiks joining IS pales in comparison to that of citizens of some other countries. For example, 6,500 Tunisians and 2,500 Saudis are estimated to have joined IS.

Winter says that the statistics suggest that “Tajiks were being singled out for use in suicide attacks at least in part because of their nationality.”

Flipping To Islamic State

Analysts say the case of a high-ranking, U.S.-trained, Tajik special-forces commander who vacated his post and defected to IS in Syria could help answer the question as to why so many Tajiks are being used as suicide bombers.

Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, the former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry’s special forces known as the OMON, reportedly joined the IS extremist group in 2015. Counterterrorism experts believe Halimov has risen through the ranks to become the top IS military commander.

“Why Tajiks have been used so frequently could be because Halimov is reported to be the IS supreme military commander,” says Edward Lemon, a fellow at Colombia University who researches Tajikistan. “It is possible that Halimov is behind the move to use Tajiks more frequently by persuading them to volunteer.”

Halimov, dressed in black IS garb, appeared in an online propaganda video in May 2015 saying he had joined the extremist group to protest the Tajik government’s ban on Islamic dress in schools and offices, and limitations on public prayer.

Under Pressure

Analysts also suggest pressure exerted by Tajikistan’s government on Islamic political and religious groups and unsanctioned Islam has played into the hands of IS recruiters.

As part of the peace deal ending the country’s 1992-97 civil war, the united Tajik opposition was guaranteed a place in government. That gave the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), the dominant opposition force and the lone Islamic component, a prominent role in Tajikistan.

A screen grab of former Tajik Colonel Gulmurod Halimov in an IS propaganda video from 2015.

A screen grab of former Tajik Colonel Gulmurod Halimov in an IS propaganda video from 2015.

The inclusion of the IRPT, the first officially recognized Islamic party in Central Asia, was seen as a sign of openness on the part of Dushanbe and as giving moderates the upper hand within the party itself.

But over the years the Tajik authorities increased their control on all things relating to Islam, supporting only state-approved mosques and Islamic leaders, and shutting down hundreds of unregistered mosques across the country. In 2015 it banned the IRPT altogether and arrested its leadership.

The effort to deter citizens from Islam not in keeping with the official line, analysts note, may have pushed some believers to more dangerous streams of the religion.

“When the IRPT was part of the [government] one of their main tasks was to educate people not to go to IS,” says Sophie Roche, a researcher at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany. “Once [the party] was forbidden we had an enormous increase [of Tajiks joining IS] — students and, in one case, 40 people from one village.”

Migrant Humiliation

Analyst Lemon says IS recruiters often target individuals who are socially isolated or have experienced some form of trauma or personal crisis.

He adds that the vast majority of recruitment takes place in Russia, where millions of Tajik citizens work as migrant laborers.

Researcher Roche says the sense of “humiliation” they feel over their situation plays an important role in recruitment in Russia, where migrant workers often perform menial jobs and are often targeted for abuse and harassment.

“Most of the migrants do work which is very post-colonial and they have a loss of status in that country,” says Roche, who has researched Tajik migrants in Russia.

“If you fail in Russia because you don’t have a job or you don’t earn enough to really build a status you turn toward religion to gain respect,” says Roche, although she adds that few who turn to Islam join the ranks of IS militants.

 

RFERL

Frud Bezhan

March 12, 2017

AlJazeera: “Tajikistan: The success story that failed”

Aljazeera:Tajikistan: The success story that failed

In power since 1992, Rahmon has gradually tightened the noose taking full control of the parliament, the judiciary and the elections, writes Torfeh [Getty]

Tajikistan may be a small country in Central Asia, but it was once hailed by the United Nations as one of the few international success stories of peace and reconciliation.

Yet the events of this year alone have turned Tajikistan into a model, not for success, but for the failure of the international community in sustaining the democratic achievements of a nation that lost 100,000 lives to end a five-year civil war between 1992 and 1997.

The Tajik president, Emomali Rahmon, has movedto make himself president for life, ban and imprison all opposition and silence the media – and the world has remained silent.

Today is the 17th anniversary of the Electoral Law of December 10, 1999, which led to the first multi-party elections observed by the UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

This was supposed to put in place a parliament truly reflective of the peace and reconciliation accord of June 1997, guaranteeing a power-sharing system with a 30 percent quota of positions for the opposition, made up mainly of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and the Democratic Party of Tajikistan.

Today, that opposition is all but obliterated. Many have faced suspicious deaths, others allegations of terrorism in “blatantly unfair [trials] behind closed doors, marred by serious violations of due process and credible allegations of torture or ill-treatment in pre-trial detention.” In May 2016, Tajik prosecutors demanded life sentences for leaders of IRPT, which was banned in September 2015.

Tajik President Rahmon, in power since 1992, has gradually tightened the noose: taking full control of the parliament, the judiciary and the elections process, thus overruling the separation of powers.

Controversial constitutional amendments in May 2016 granted him to rule indefinitely, effectively removing all the term limitations. The minimum age for a candidate has been lowered so that the president could hand over to his son.

Where did all go wrong?

But how did this drastic misuse of a UN-observed reconciliation accord happen, and why are the UN, OSCE, Russia and Iran, which designed and observed the process, quiet?

The first reason is the weakness of the opposition itself. The leader of the IRPT, Said Abdullah Nuri, presided over a party that became powerful in the year 2000, with its members filling most of the government positions allocated. It had transformed from an armed organisation to one committed to peaceful and legal political methods.

Yet in the process, the party made too many concessions to the president to ensure those government posts remain intact. This, in turn, created conflict within the IRPT leadership, and deep frustration among many of its members.

The failed democratisation in Tajikistan provides a perfect breeding ground for youth radicalisation.

Moreover, IRPT did not use its power for protecting democratic institutions and democratic rights. Some IRPT members continued to use mosques and madrasas for political activities, despite a legal prohibition. The president used their activities as an excuse to ban and confront them, and then to prohibit Islamic teaching.

Now, 70 percent of all mosques are closed. Important preachers, such as Eishan Nourdinjon Tourajonzoda and Eishan Abdul Khalil, are banned from preaching, religious schools have been closed down and there are cases of forced beard-shaving and removal of headscarves. Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of IRPT, escaped Tajikistan and is currently somewhere in Europe, fearing for his life.

International silence

The second reason for the deterioration is that the need for post-conflict stabilisation in Tajikistan was never tackled seriously by the two main international guarantors: the OSCE and the UN. Both organisations initially pledged “continued international support”, yet neither really followed through.

On the 10th anniversary of the peace accord, a statement by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made no mention of any problems. At a meeting in June 2015, Ban and Rahmon discussed water sanitation. In a joint press conference that followed, one small sentence was uttered about “implementing UN human rights recommendations”.

Even at the outset, when President Rahmon changed the constitution to increase his tenure from five to seven years, the UN and the OSCE stood by in silence.

A special UN office was set up in May 2000 with the task of “helping to build democratic institutions, and promoting respect for human rights”, but it proved ineffective.

Other UN agencies have been equally silent. While President Rahmon has taken part in several UNESCO events, celebrating Tajik culture, UNESCO has never highlighted the abysmal state of freedom of expression in the arts (and other sectors) in Tajikistan.

Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have often raised alarms over the treatment of imprisoned journalists, but little UN or OSCE condemnation has been voiced.

Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda, the editor of Najot, a newspaper linked to IRPT was arrestedin September 2015, and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Harassment of independent journalists has also intensified. Mohiedin Dustov, the editor of Nigoh newspaper, is receiving death threats. Several lawyers who defended the IRPT’s leaders were themselves tried and convicted, while two-thirds of the country’s lawyers have been disbarred.

The OSCE having the “longest-running operation in Central Asia”, has observed five elections in Tajikistan. While it has criticised the processes every time, it has not been outspoken enough about the failures of the electoral process, the sham referendums and the human rights abuses.

READ MORE: Tajikistan – Indefinite autocracy takes hold

As for Iran and Russia, the two main supporters of the conflicting sides, they seem to have concluded a more important deal between themselves over regional power-sharing. This is why Iran has remained surprisingly silent on the treatment of Islam and the IRPT, which it once supported wholeheartedly.

While the international community remains silent on the abuses in Tajikistan, its failed democratisation has become a perfect breeding ground for youth radicalisation. Official figures say 1,094 Tajik nationals have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS). Other militant groups in the region area also recruiting: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Uighur East Turkestan Islamic Movement of China.

It will soon be clear that this international silence will cost the region dearly.

Massoumeh Torfeh is the former director of strategic communication at the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan and is currently a research associate at the London School of Economics and Political Science specialising in Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. She was the UN spokesperson in Tajikistan between 1998 and 2000 during the peace and reconciliation process.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

10 Dec 2016


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